Participating in a triathlon (an event involving a combination of swimming, cycling and running) at any level is a huge achievement. Unfortunately, the competitive nature of these events can sometimes scare off people who aren’t confident athletes. But, Couch to Coast cleverly used This Girl Can – Victoria messaging to turn attitudes around and inspire 36 new women – some of them mothers – to get active and take part.
In November 2018, Couch to Coast – a collaboration between Leadership Great South Coast and Warrnambool Tri Club – hosted a women’s all-inclusive triathlon event. This was designed to encourage women to get more active, regardless of their age or fitness level.
This Girl Can swim, cycle and run
Couch to Coast identified key barriers to participation in triathlon events for women. Fitness levels, not having the right gear, and the competitive nature of triathlons – often thought of as the domain of elite athletes – were major concerns. To overcome these barriers, in 2018 the Couch to Coast team introduced two innovative new events: the Women’s Come-n-Tri, and the Splash-n-Dash-or-Dawdle for beginners, children and families.
The idea behind these non-competitive events was to encourage women to give it a go – or ‘have a tri’ – no matter how much of it they could complete. Participants could do the full triathlon or take part in any of the three legs – swimming, cycling or running.
Inspiring women to do a triathlon
“Our events were non-competitive, and promoted accordingly,” said Kate, Project Lead on Couch to Coast. The events were largely promoted through Facebook and physical flyers featuring This Girl Can – Victoria branding and messaging.
“Facebook promotions reiterated that the events required minimal fitness levels and encouraged people to participate at whatever level they felt comfortable,” Kate explained. “They weren’t required to complete the whole course and were able to do one, two or all three legs of the course. We also posted photos of women of all ages, sizes and abilities.”
Couch to Coast held a number of social sessions prior to the event, giving people the chance to find out what to expect from the triathlon. A Q&A session set the scene and gave participants the opportunity to meet the people who’d be running the events. This also helped them learn what equipment they’d need to bring – Couch to Coast even provided opportunities to borrow shared gear like bikes, wetsuits and more. Women were assured that flashy gear was not necessary, and ‘mum bikes’ were celebrated.
The result of a non-competitive approach
Women gave it a go
Couch to Coast asked participants to complete a survey following the triathlon and found that 79% of participants had previously worried about being judged on their appearance, abilities or priorities when participating in physical activity.
Survey respondents had great feedback about the Women’s Come-n-Tri event:
- “Everyone was there to just be active and give it a go. I hoped it would be all inclusive and it was.”
- “The training session Couch to Coast offered beforehand was a real confidence booster to go into a tri knowing what to do in transition. I liked the way they encouraged us to come regardless of the gear we had, and shared their own resources like wetsuits, bikes etc.”
- “The no frills approach is the best, with more focus on the activity than the equipment or sports gear required.”
- “Tips about the small stuff really helped – like, how do you put shoes on after a swim?!”
Not just women, but families too!
Many participants were also pleased that Couch to Coast offered a child-friendly option. The Splash-n-Dash-or-Dawdle was an all ages, non-competitive event that encouraged women to bring their children along to complete a shorter course (50m wade, 500m ride, 200m run/walk) and just have fun.
While the Women’s Come-n-Tri wasn’t promoted as being for children, the ‘more social than serious’ messaging used to market it encouraged mothers to bring kids along anyway. Kate said, “We had some mums do the run course as a walk, with prams”. She also mentioned that some children joined their mums behind bikes in trailers.
One participant encouraged other physical activity program providers to “include options to include children, as that may encourage more mums to give it a go.”
There’s a huge sense of achievement attached to participating in a triathlon. And even for people who didn’t complete the whole Couch to Coast event but did get involved, the chance to participate in their own way was a big win. Couch to Coast managed to encourage women to get active by:
- Using positive and inclusive This Girl Can – Victoria messaging to emphasise the non-competitive nature of the event
- Offering information sessions and answering questions with Facebook Messenger, so participants would feel more comfortable and know what to expect
- Appealing to mothers through child-friendly event options they could participate in as a family.
Want more inspiration on how to encourage women in your community to get active? See our other supporter case studies for tips, tricks and a whole lot of good feels.
Visit The Warrnambool Tri Club and Couch to Coast Facebook page for upcoming social swimming and tri sessions, and 2019 events. Warrnambool is a brillant place to visit. The Warrnambool Tri Club is family friendly, and welcomes visitors to our events and sessions – come and make a weekend of it!